San Blas Islands, Panama – Why you should visit paradise

San Blas Islands Panama

I first heard about the San Blas Islands when I was travelling in Colombia.  As there is no road from Panama to Colombia a lot of people opt for the 4 night/5 day boat trip.  It’s quite an expensive option and as I get so seasick I believed it was a trip I was never going to do and a place I was never going to see.

When I found out I needed to get further away from the US than Mexico or the Caribbean to reset my visa I decided to visit Costa Rica & Panama, I had previously visited Costa Rica but hadn’t had time to go to Panama too.

While I was in Costa Rica I decided to check out the lonely planet and see what there was to do in Panama.  I was reading about these gorgeous islands and suddenly realised they were the ones I had been hearing about all the time I was in Colombia.

That was then decided, I needed to make my way to Panama City and visit the San Blas islands from there.  I booked into the Mamallena hostel in Panama City as I knew that they could book my San Blas trip, and caught the overnight bus from Bocas del toro arriving at 7am.

After crashing on the sofa for a few hours as it was too early to check in, I sat down and discussed my San Blas trip, decided on an Island and by10am I had my trip to the San Blas Islands booked for 5.30am the next morning!!  The transfer in the 4×4 vehicle is $60 US and takes about 3 hours to the small port where you pick up the boat for the island you have decided to stay.  It can be a bit chaotic but the driver helps get you on the right boat.

Franklins San Blas Islands Panama

I had chosen to stay at Franklin’s, a small island split in half, but our half had the nice beach and huts overlooking the water.  I paid $26 US a night for a dorm room and this includes 3 meals.  We bought snacks & water before going to the island but you are able to buy some there, just at a higher price.  Just make sure you take enough cash for food & excursions as there are no ATM’s and you can’t pay by card, if you run out of money you have to leave!!

We got off the boat and went to the hut to pay up and then went to see our home for the next 3 nights.  It’s basic but you get a bed, there are some shelves to put your bags, the floor is just the beach, and as a person who hates sand, it’s surprising how quickly you get used to it.  The hut is open to the elements and the birds, it rained a couple of nights during the night and the first night I got woken up as it was raining on me!! The birds do come into your room, so just check your sheets for bird poo and you can easily get them changed, also make sure your food is well protected, the birds managed to peck through 2 carrier bags and into my crisps (potato chips) and biscuits!! They also tried pecking through my rucksack when I transferred the food into there!!

Here is me outside my hut and the view from my hut.

San Blas Islands PanamaFranklins San Blas Islands Panama

The first day I just chilled and enjoyed the beach.  I swam in the sea, did a bit of snorkelling and walked around the island (that took about 10 mins!!).  Meal times are set and you are woken up early about 7.30am for breakfast, lunch is about 11.30am and then dinner is at 4.30pm.  It got dark early when I was there and as the generator was shut off at about 9pm we did get to catch up on much needed sleep!!

The second day most of us on the island (there were about 10 of us, the whole island can sleep about 90 people) decided to do a trip to a nearby reef and to Isla Perro which has a shipwreck.  It was a great day, the water was clear and the shipwreck was close to shore so nice and easy to snorkel around.  We were also joined by the local military who had come ashore and decided to do some snorkelling around the shipwreck too!!

San Blas Islands Panama San Blas Islands Panama  San Blas Islands PanamaSan Blas Islands Panama

After the trip it was back to the Island for a game of volleyball.  I keep trying but it’s a game I am very poor at.  I didn’t too bad though, we actually had a proper volleyball ball, obviously this was why I have always been so rubbish before!!  Still need to work on my co-ordination and not running away from the ball!!

San Blas Islands

The final day a few of us decided to go to the main Kuna island for a visit around their local town to see the school and the local hospital.  You get to see exactly how they live and many of them live in the same kind of basic huts that we only had to sleep in for 3 nights!!

San Blas Islands

After that it was back to the island for our final bit of relaxation and sunbathing before our 8am pick up back to the mainland the next day.

San Blas Islands San Blas Islands San Blas Islands San Blas Islands San Blas Islands

It was a truly amazing experience, no wifi and no electricity to charge appliances for 3 days!!  And do you know what, I didn’t miss it!! Just relaxing and having the sea a few metres from your door and going to sleep listening to it was amazing.  I love this place and hopefully I will be back again one day for another visit.

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San Blas Islands, Panama.  Why you should visit paradise

Find out about Why I started travelling here, Miami Beach here, Key West here, Everglades here, Bolton Abbey here, Naples here, Koh Tao here, Yangon – Myanmar here, Ischica – Italy here, Koyasan – Japan here, Machu Picchu – Peru here, Memphis here, Faro – The Algarve here, Fiji – South Sea Island here, Egypt – My trip in a hot air balloon here, Doutbful Sound – NZ here,  Death Road – Bolivia here, Iguazu Falls – Argentina here, Northern Lights – here, Hobbiton NZ – here, The Lost City Hike Colombia – here & Choquequirao Trek here


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30 thoughts on “San Blas Islands, Panama – Why you should visit paradise

  1. wow thats super interesting! I have never heard of this place and the way you describe it, it seems mystical; no plugs, no wifi, no atm, no credit card..and when you run out of money, you have to leave 😀

  2. San Blas Islands is so beautiful and I believe it is a wonderful place to go for a few days digital retreat. Sleep with the sounds of the crush waves and wake up to the singing of the birds would be nature’s great gift. I am glad you enjoy it and it was not at all expensive.

  3. Looks like a wonderful place and you would definitely be able to unwind without all those techno gadgets, although part of my relaxing is using those gadgets to read etc. Not sure I could do without them for 3 days 🙂 Looks simply stunning though.

    • I did have my kindle to read, luckily it does not need charging very often and my cameras were fully charged before I left!!!

  4. I’ve wanted to go to Panama ever since I was a teenager after we had an exchange student visit from Panama one term. It looks and sounds really amazing! That beach looks stunning – and must have been awesome to snorkel around the shipwreck!

  5. I love a tropical island but had never heard of San Blas. I think 3 days is probably the most Ai could probably go with no technology! I know The Hubs would have an issue with the sand on the floor in the huts! The one thing Ai would struggle is the set meal times. That early dinner would kill me lol. What a truly unique experience you had.

  6. If I was to be on that beautiful island without phone, wifi and internet, I wouldn’t miss it either. It looks fantastic! It’s amazing that you can choose the island you want to stay on and that they are so small. Practically, you can have the entire beach to yourself.

  7. I’ve heard wonderful things about the Panama Islands, but I never got around to actually looking to them more! Franklin island sounds like a cute little place to stay- especially since it’s so unique, being split down the middle! And good tip about the ATMs and food on the island. I have some food allergies, so I’m always packing snacks. The birds would love me! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • In the high season the islands are full, I was there just at the end of the wet season so not too busy which was nice 🙂

  8. The San Blas islands sound amazing! I’ve never heard of them before so I really enjoyed learning about them. Snorkeling around a shipwreck sounds fantastic. I love beaches too! Thanks for providing details about the cost for certain transportation and activities.

  9. this is a very good finding! I also wanted to explore San Blas islands but I was not happy with the Colombian option. You gave me the perfect excuse to visit Panama soon!

  10. I keep hearing Panama is a great place to visit with the stability of the Canal Zone keeping the country very stable and prosperous. Escaping to the peace and quiet of San Blas seems like the best of both worlds.

  11. So good that you finally managed to visit with a 4 days boat trip! I love the idea of getting off the beaten track for a bit, with no access to wifi. Sometimes it is hard to switch off until you don’t have the choice! I love the idea that you could swim around an actual shipwreck – and see how the locals live.

  12. What a beautiful place to detach and unwind. It would have been awesome to go snorkelling around that shipwreck! The beachy views are enough to make anyone jealous of this trip!

  13. Truly beautiful, straight out of paradise! I love the emptiness there and this is truly essential in my opinion for such places. For me it is not really the kind of perfect vacation when you are in such a place but have to share a beach with 500 others 😉 But this one here seems to be really “private”….
    $26 US a night for a dorm room including 3 meals sounds absolutely fair to me!
    Thank you for presenting this hidden gem!

  14. This seems like an amazing place to visit. Looks like the locals are happy to help get you booked and to your destination. This definitely makes the experience much more pleasant. The little huts you stayed at were adorable and the views are amazing. The excursion also looked like fun and it seems you lucked out with the people that were with you. Amazing trip.

  15. I have never heard of this hidden paradise, it’s really an incredible island, I would love to visit it. What I liked the most is that it doesn’t seem full of tourists, which means tranquility and freedom haha, Thanks for sharing, thanks to you now I will add this to my bucket list

  16. This is my first time hearing about San Blas and it sounds like it’s a hidden paradise. No ATM, limited electricity, no frills- the perfect place to unplug and unwind. I can’t believe all three meals are included with the room at only $26USD… That is such a steal!

  17. That beach looks beautiful. We took a no wifi, no electricity trip a few months ago and loved the freedom and all the extra time we had. Sometimes you don’t really realize how much time you spend on phones and computers until you are completely without them.

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